My soul is warm, belly is smiling and tastebuds are dancing because…
Probably Definitely the best comfort food of all time. And more than just a dish, great lasagna is an experience–from assembling layers with love, to inhaling the tantalizing aroma as it comes out of the oven, to carving into the saucy, cheesy wonder, and savoring every moment with the warm feeling of family.
Who knew pasta could do that much?
Well, stay tuned, because we’re taking all that magic and stepping it up a notch.
When you think of lasagna, a healthy and diet-friendly meal isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. And in many cases with good reason: Lasagna can be stuffed with excess fatty meat and cheese, and piled high with refined carbs. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be! This lasagna is protein- and fiber-rich, jam-packed with veggies, and not even especially carby–one generous serving only contains a HALF serving of whole grain pasta…hard to argue with that.
Yes, this is a healthy baked pasta dish that is made without sacrificing chewy, hearty noodles for limp zucchini or spaghetti squash. Amazing, right? Don’t misunderstand, zucchini and other squash are wonderful in their own right, just not the most satitiating as a main dish nor true substitutes for pasta in my opinion; they;re just not the same. So instead of completely ditching the pasta, I opt for whole grain (can be gluten-free if necessary) and load up on veggies and lean protein. I also use reduced fat cottage cheese instead of ricotta (partly because it’s lighter, mostly because it’s what I usually have on hand), which consistently comes out beautifully.
Nutrition aside, this lasagna tastes OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD yummy, and it has won praise even from those who swear by ground chuck. We’re talking rich melty cheesiness, pull-apart chicken, tender veggies, chewy noodles, loads of Italian flavor, and never-ending comfort.
- 3/4 cup spinach, chopped
- 1/3 cup 1% cottage cheese*
- 1 medium egg white
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 oz Italian blend cheese, shredded, divided**
- 1/4 tsp EVOO
- 4 oz boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp white wine
- 4 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
- ~1/4 cup sliced yellow onion
- ~1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 oz whole grain lasagna noodles***
- 3/4 cup pasta sauce****
- Preheat oven to 350º. Bring a pot of water with a generous pinch salt to a boil.
- Boil lasagna noodles 6-7 minutes, until al dente (NOT fully cooked!). Drain, then lay them out on a flat surface. Cut each one in half (6 pieces total).
- Chop spinach. Place a damp paper towel in a microwave-safe bowl; add spinach, then fold paper towel to cover spinach. Microwave about 45 seconds, or until spinach is wilted. Remove paper towel and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, heat EVOO in a skillet over medium heat (more than 1/4 tsp if not nonstick). Season chicken (I use 2 tenderloin strips) lightly with salt, pepper, and sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Add to skillet and cook on each side 3-4 minutes, or just until cooked through. Set aside.
- Add to the hot skillet a splash of wine (or broth or water), mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, and ~1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Sauté 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and cook another 30 sec. Remove pan from heat.
- When spinach has cooled, add to the bowl cottage cheese, egg white, nutmeg, black pepper, and 1 oz of the Italian blend cheese. Mix to evenly incorporate.
- When chicken is cool, hand-shred into small pieces.
- In a small/medium casserole dish, spread ~2 Tbsp sauce on the bottom. Place 2 noodle pieces side-by-side. Dividing ingredients between each side, layer: 1/2 cottage cheese mixture, 1/2 shredded chicken, 1/2 sautéed veggies, 2-3 Tbsp sauce, 2 noodle pieces, remaining cottage cheese mixture, remaining chicken, remaining veggies, 2-3 Tbsp sauce, remaining noodles, and 3-4 Tbsp sauce to fully cover the top noodles. Top with remaining 1 oz shredded cheese.
- Cover and bake ~40 minutes. Use a spatula to divide between two plates (cutting each piece in half also, if desired). Enjoy!
- Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container 4-5 days and reheat beautifully.
- *You can also use part-skim ricotta
- **Try a pre-shredded Italian blend plus parmigiano reggiano, or shred a combination of mozzarella (smoked if available), asiago, fontina, provolone, parmigiano reggiano, and/or "Bruschetta Jack" (Monterrey Jack with Italian spices) or "Pesto Jack."
- ***I use 3 whole noodles but break off ~1.5 inches of each to fit my square baking dish.
- ****I recommend Dave's Red Heirloom!